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6 Things You Should Know About The Japan Rail Pass

6 Things You Need To Know about the Japan Rail Pass
6 Things You Need To Know about the Japan Rail Pass

UPDATED: 6th December 2017

Japan is such a fascinating and diverse country, with many wonderful cities, towns, ancient buildings and natural landmarks to explore.

Whether you're heading to the Land of the Rising Sun on a whirlwind trip or plan to stay a little longer, a Japan Rail Pass is the perfect way to see all this fascinating country has to offer. Before heading off on your adventure through Japan, here are 6 things you should know about the Japan Rail Pass.

1. The Pass is more expensive in Japan. Order your JR Pass Online in Australia.

japan train driver onpage 380
Train driver inside Shinkansen (bullet train)

If you want to see the best of Japan, it's important to organise your transportation before departing your home country.

The JR Pass is intended for temporary foreign visitors or tourists, and the availability in Japan is limited at higher prices. You should purchase your exchange voucher while still in Australia or New Zealand, which you will then exchange for your official JR Pass upon arriving in Japan.

The voucher must be exchanged for a JR Pass within 90 days of issue and passports are checked upon exchange.

The JR Pass is not valid for those holding a student visa, a working holiday visa or for Japanese nationals, however, Japanese nationals able to prove they have been living abroad for at least 10 years are still eligible for the JR Pass.


Kinkakuji Temple The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto Japan onpage 800
Kinkakuji Temple (The Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto


2. The JR Pass comes in 2 classes; Green Class and Ordinary Class

The Japan Rail Pass is available in two classes: Ordinary and Green (first class). Green Class offers large comfortable seating, plenty of leg room and mood lighting to enhance your relaxation. There is also ample luggage storage space, which is ideal for travellers carrying larger bags.

On select Green Class services, there are also power points to charge your laptop or phone and complimentary beverages and hot towels. Green Class is also advantageous during busy travel periods as it is less prone to getting booked out. Ordinary Class is still very comfortable and will provide you with the perfect opportunity to mingle with Japanese locals.

japan rail green class car onpage 800
Train attendant waiting outside Green Class Car


3. Train Travel Days are to be used as Consecutive Days

Ginza by night Tokyo Japan 380
Ginza, Tokyo by night

The JR pass is designed for continuous travel/consecutive days only.

Once you've validated your Japan Rail Pass it is valid for the next 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days.

This means that with a 7 Day Pass you can't select 7 separate days over a period of a few weeks or months in which to use it. The Pass is only valid for successive days once it has been validated.

You don't need to use it every day, but if you wish to get the best value from your Pass it is best to plan your travel so that you are using it for the ideal number of days available.

Each of the three passes makes it possible to explore all of the diverse landscapes and regions of Japan as they are valid for unlimited travel throughout the country on all JR Group Railways


Almost all bullet trains (Shinkansen), limited express and rapid or local trains are included. The Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen are the only bullet train which is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. 

By taking advantage of Japan's speedy and wide-ranging Shinkansen (bullet train) network, you can traverse the country's many prefectures surprisingly fast. For example, just 7.5 hours aboard a Shinkansen will take you from the bustling urban heart of Tokyo in the centre of the country to the snowy city of Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost region of Japan. Check out our latest blog post on Tokyo for our top 10 list of things to do in Tokyo.


4. Seat Reservations are Free!

japan train autumn onpage 380
Train travelling through Japan in Autumn

If you're travelling during a peak period (for example, during the Spring Hanami festivals or the busy summer period), it is wise to book a seat reservation.

Your JR Pass entitles you to free seat reservations on all trains that are valid with your Pass. Seat reservations in both Ordinary and Green Class are available and can be printed in English upon request.

To be issued with a seat reservation, simply take your JR Pass to a JR ticket office and specify which train route you will be taking.

If you're travelling during the quieter months, it's usually not necessary to make a seat reservation, however, the option is still available.



5. It's the only Rail Pass which covers all of Japan

While there are a variety of regional JR Passes available, the JR Pass is the only pass to cover all of Japan. With a Japan Rail Pass you can traverse each of Japan's four main islands; Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, experiencing all this magical country has to offer.

From Mount Fuji to Tokyo, Matsuyama Castle to Niseko ski resort, the Japan Rail Pass gives you access to Japan's best attractions and is a fantastic option for the busy traveller.

osaka castle onpage 800 in ChkM-ku Japan
Osaka Castle in Chuo-ku, Osaka


6. The Japan Rail Pass covers a huge range of transport options

A Japan Rail Pass entitles you to unlimited travel across all JR networks including regional lines and JRinner-cityy lines in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. The Pass also includes the following JR bus lines and JR bus companies/divisions:

JR Highway Bus Lines

  • Morioka - Hiroskai/ Amori / Towadako * Sapporo - Otaru
  • Tokyo - Shizuoka/Hamamatsu/Okazaki/Toyota/Nagoya/Kyoto/Osaka/Tsukuba Centre
  • Nagoya - Kyoto / Osaka
  • Osaka - Tsuyama Car Shed / Kasai Flower Centre

JR Bus Companies 
Local lines of JR Bus Tohoku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, West Japan JR Bus, 
Chugoku JR Bus, JR Hokkaido Bus and JR Kyushu Bus. 

JR Bus Divisions 
Local bus lines of JR Shikoku.

Your JR Pass also covers travel on JR Ferries
Miyajima - Miyajimaguchi, except "BEETLE II" (Hakata - Pusan)

Your JR Pass can also get you to/from Tokyo Airport!

The Narita Express train is a fast and convenient way to travel between Tokyo's Narita Airport and major stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Seat reservations are compulsory for the Narita Express but are free of charge for Japan Rail Pass holders. Simply exchange your voucher and reserve your seat at a JR Exchange office at Narita Airport.

The pass will also allow you to travel to and from Tokyo Haneda airport (via Monorail) and Osaka airport (by train).

All of this flexibility makes getting around Japan's cities and travelling long distance a breeze. For more information about the Japan Rail Pass and a range of other useful travel stuff simply head to our comprehensive Japan by Rail page.

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